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Everything posted by martincath

  1. It's not just me - professionals operating public transport networks and folks who analyze transit networks across North America, indeed across the world, agree. You could actually have Googled this in way less time than it took to write your post... Example - just last year we were awarded best on the continent (in the largest size category, 20M+ trips per year) by a major US-based non-profit, the American Public Transportation Association, so any bias in that judgment would have seen Portland/Chicago/NYC etc. win rather than a Canadian city. There are a crapton of other such awards that have been handed out, going back a very long time. The quick & dirty version is for me to simply say that I know both cities well, I walk around them both a LOT, and I use transit as much as anyone who doesn't commute to work ever could feasibly claim to - and however good you think Portland is for walking, biking, and public transit Vancouver is better across the board despite dealing with far more passengers. You're right that there are more rail 'tentacles' sticking out from the core in PDX, but service frequency and volume of passengers served is vastly lower than here - MAX passenger volumes peaked around 115,000 a day back in ~2013 on the entire network and has never recovered to those levels since dropping the 'free zone', while the Canada Line alone has more than 150,000 daily pax, and both Expo and Millennium each have more than that! Portlands designated frequent bus lines run every 15min in rush hour - Vancouver has that standard on most bus routes, two or three times as many on high volume routes in rush hour. Basically you're comparing a system that has ~4 times the ridership numbers in a metro area with a near-identical population (Vancouver Census Metro Area and Portland-Vancouver-Hillboro CMA are both ~2.5M - if you ditch all the out-of-state area, it's still over 2M on the Oregon side so 80% the size). Trimet total journeys in 2019 was ~80M. Translink was over 260M. Rides, as opposed to Journeys (tracks transfers) we have an even higher proportion, almost 440M vs 100M - probably because of fewer spokes, so more Journeys require 2+ separate Rides here than in PDX. Now if you want to read my wafflier, more subjective info and a few tidbits that might be of interest from an Urban planning perspective, read on - but the raw numbers above (lifted from TriMet & Streetcar, Translinks own websites) should make it clear that while both systems count as 'large metro' (20M+ journeys per year), the difference in scale makes it patently obvious that you are dealing with a vastly better people-moving system here, or else there would be an awful lot more Portlandians who would actually USE transit instead of clogging the highways with cars every day... We use transit in Portland some - more so than we do in Vancouver actually, since while in both cities we live downtown and in walking distance to everything we need on the regular, but Portland's attractions are much more spread out than Vancouvers. We're not going to walk from the Pearl to the Zoo, Hollywood Theater etc. That right there is enough for me to know experientially that Vancouver is by FAR the more walkable city - and while I'd agree that more different suburbs around Portland get light rail transit than in the Metro Vancouver, what they have runs less frequently, carries fewer passengers, and is overwhelmingly at-grade which makes it inherently less reliable. It's probably still the best in the US overall - not as extensive as NYC/Chicago, but a heckuvalot less crowded and mostly much newer and better-maintained. Combined with the extensive bike lanes, and definite walkability of the core 'hoods, Portland is definitely a very 'commute by any means other than car'-friendly place by American standards - but to be quite frank America is SO dominated by car use for travel that any random Canadian town or city has 2-10x more transit capacity than US metros of their size... and compared to Europe and developed Asian cities, Canada also sucks at transit! But SkyTrain is basically the most reliable light rail system around - the amount of downtime is low because it's relatively new, even the oldest line only goes back to expo in 1986, it's been all-electric forever, and the trains are completely automated so no driver error which also means that it runs virtually 100% on time. Drivers suck - they're the single most dangerous component on ANY vehicle, but ESPECIALLY anything on rails. And the more they drive, the WORSE they get unless they have their routes changed at least every few years (safety stats for railroad drivers indicate that the only person more dangerous than a first-time unsupervised driver, is someone who has driven the same route for many years - the exact number of years depends on just how boring the route is. Number one response from a human driver after a rail accident that involved them missing a red light? "That light is always green so I assumed it was wrong!") Even our bus fleet is electric on the the busy routes so less prone to breakdowns and cheaper to maintain, though frankly keeping the original streetcar lines would have in hindsight been even more efficient at moving people - you can see similar patterns in Portland and other cities where they have at-grade Streetcars and Buses, that the average speed on rails is usually about 1 third higher than on tires, and most streetcars move about twice as many people as a bus does. SkyTrain station closures are also virtually unheard of - and some of those gaps you see are deliberately part of the master plan, where the cost of the stations that will fill the gaps are contractually required to be paid by the condo developers who benefit from building their new towers around the planned station sites. Downtown, yes, the West End is bus only - we have to deal with water, bedrock, prone-to-shifting soil across swathes of the coast, and population density that varies wildly from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, so there are safety, cost, and simple practical 'more people means more likely to get light rail' factors that make ALL the areas right next to the ocean problematic in some way. The West side of Vancouver is also generally richer, with more single-family homes and enormous lot sizes and very low density, than East Van or Surrey - and combine that with the fact that the folks who live there include a lot of rich NIMBYs who actively resisted even a SEAWALL expansion for many years, because they don't want peons cycling past their fancy mansions! I'm sure if it wasn't for rising sea levels risking their fancy houses, the West Point Grey NIMBY brigade would have continued to push back against Seawall expansion - but they got told that if they wanted the wall, it had to have a path for people and bikes so take their pick between peons or flood tides passing by πŸ˜‰ One of the major factors in building light rail anywhere that already has people living is avoiding law suits from rich people, who can afford to pay lawyers and drag things out (if you look at Toronto for example, you see the left side of the main Yonge subway line U-shape has a couple of odd jinks in it - the Dupont to Eglinton West jink is entirely because by moving the new extension literally just by a few blocks, an enclave of rich people was avoided and instead a big chunk of much cheaper houses got demolished to build the station and the open 'cut' part of the line. I vacationed with the guy who was in charge of the TTC during that expansion, and heard first-hand the tales...) I'm not sure how outdated the maps are you're looking at, as the Evergreen Line is a now-several-years-old line that goes northeast, connecting into the Millennium Line - and while the Expo and Millennium lines do run as a contiguous loop of track if you look with any degree of care you'll see that they cross over at Commercial Drive - and the track also loops back under itself just south of Main Street, where the long-planned UBC westward extension is now finally into the last stages before actual building begins. UBC itself is a perfect candidate for transit - students, so lower income, and large numbers of them who commute from around town rather than living on campus. The reason it's taken so long is at least as much to do with complaints from businesses and people along proposed routes than any funding issues. To compare it to Portland, the Millennium line add-on was done in that shape to avoid the situation that plagued Portland's Streetcar for decades - its loop was only just closed when the sexy new Tilikum Crossing bridge opened, before that trains had to just shuttle back & forth, and without fail some schmuck in a car would have an accident every couple of months that blocked the rails at just one point but brought the entire system to a halt until cleared. Despite being all above or below grade so almost immune to idiots on roads causing problems, when Millennium line was added it was designed from day one to be not just a more-due-east than Expo spoke, but ALSO to link the two lines together AND add a totally-pointless-at-that-time station (VCC-Clark) that was primarily there just to anchor the UBC leg once it was built. Long-term planning. And the MAX lines in Portland are also shared in chunks through downtown - red/blue trains and green/yellow often simply change sign en route from east side to west side or vice versa , so to some extent it's just one line rather than two, exactly the same as our Expo/Millennium but without the very useful joining loop at the end that offers a buffer against breaks in service. Yes, we do have very frequent buses - in four different sizes now since adding double-deckers last year. Rapid-transit bus lines have expanded quite a bit recently, using major corridors not (or not yet) served by SkyTrain, and while I don't know anyone who uses them regularly who would not like a few more at busy times to be added, rush hour you can literally watch a string of 99s almost nose-to-tail along Broadway for example. As to SkyTrain stations not being close enough together for you in the core - the positioning of downtown stations is very deliberately NOT so close together as to hinder effectiveness. If you've spent any time on systems where there's a subway station that's just a block away from another you'll already be aware that it's actually counter-productive - trains are slowed significantly, as they never get up to cruising speed. The braking and accelerating leads to more wear and tear, and stations themselves are expensive to build. Only in cities where there are massive amounts of commuters in high rises right on top of the stations do they make any sense at all - and even then, they really only work well if the tunnels are extensive enough to have multiple lines allowing Express trains to bypass some stations. I also know that tactical commuters like I used to be will deliberately get off a station early because we can walk the extra tiny bit quicker than waiting for the train to unload, load, move, and unload again when stations are too close. Vancouver does not have anywhere with sufficient density that a station dropped in-between the current handful of Canada Line/Expo line downtown core stations would actually be a net win - the deliberate gaps are further south and east, waiting for enough folks to build new tower complexes where the current density is much lower than the already-fairly-packed, even if it's mostly low and mid-rise buildings in the West End (which is also weighted demographically to retirees, who don't need high volume commuter transit as much, which is why all the buses off the couple of major streets are little 24 seaters - a lot of working age folks who live anywhere in the core do so precisely because they can walk to work, there is simply little demand for serious transit volume increases in the core). Are we perfect? Not even close - the Compass card system was pretty much a debacle that costs more money to operate than the old tokens did, and since folks cheating the prior system was actually harder than cloning fake cards on the new one, plus they cannot make it work properly for buses so now we have a two-tier pricing model, it's a total white elephant across the board in terms of costing. Commuters like it as it's much easier to set up auto-loading of monthly passes, no risk of losing physical passes in the mail or having to go somewhere to get them - but since it came in the frequency of fare rises has jumped enormously as all they have to do now is change a few lines of code, whereas with paper tickets there's all sorts of other factors that make it more efficient to wait as long as possible between fare increases. Overall it's really just 'meh' with a slight customer-convenience win but a cost loss. Portland's HOP reloadable card operates much better - adding up all times you use all services and automatically converting to Day Pass or Monthly Pass is a great feature - but the single fare pricing is more down to small scale and avoiding confusing transit users than fairness (up here we're experimenting on a Distance instead of Zones fare pricing, as for some folks moving a few hundred yards costs 2 Zones currently whereas you can ride around a ton in Vancouver proper all in one Zone). The UBC line really should have been put in years ago; Surrey's light rail expansion likewise; it's ridiculous that these are not already both operating based on bus volumes - and of course there are executives getting far too much cash and various levels of political skulduggery involved in appointing these well-paid people to a theoretically tax-payer owned but somehow able to do whatever the heck it likes organization. Oh, and those water taxis are entirely private - only the Seabus is part of the Translink network, and it's a vital link to North Vancouver. The False Creek services are indeed mostly 'tourist boats' - though a lot of us are 'staycationers' heading to the theatre or public market on Granville Island, and some folks who live on Granville Island houseboats or some of the older South False Creek buildings do use them to commute to work as bus routes are very indirect if you live in the middle parts of the area. Other paddle across in kayaks, tiny rowboats or SUPs - but that's tricky if you have to wear a suit πŸ˜‰ Lastly, I'm afraid I cannot think of a way to address your comment about not us being adequately walkable without coming across as potentially very insulting to your research skills, but I am truly not trying to be - I'm just genuinely at a loss as to how anyone can make that statement with any seriousness. If you've checked the scale on the map, you'll find that we have quite modest size city blocks - so bus stops are pretty darn close together. We are pretty darn flat, the entire downtown core is less than 6 square kilometres, sidewalks are good quality and wide, and if you're not in a hurry we have the Seawall with separated pedestrian and bike and zero cars to saunter around on too. I've never been able to find an address in downtown that does not have a WalkScore of 90+, and frankly we didn't even consider living anywhere that did not score at least 95 when we moved here because we had so many options. Google ANY comparative ranking of walkable cities and bikeable cities, and you'll find Vancouver firmly embedded right up at the top of the former and also usually listed above any other city on the continent in the latter (we can't compete with Amsterdam etc. of course, but then nowhere over this side of the pond can). Hope that covers all your issues - and trust me, when you do get here you'll find that (aside from the annoyance that the SkyTrain line that goes right past the Amtrak and intercity bus station does not have any room for luggage storage) transit here is a joy to use in comparison to anywhere south of the border, even Portland. There really is no comparison - it's only European and Japanese tourists who look horrified at transit here. Oh, and there's also no such thing as inclement weather here - just fairly frequent Liquid Sunshine. If you're not comfortable walking around it's because you have the wrong clothes on πŸ˜‰
  2. Check the YWCA Hotel - great downtown location, great reviews, the only consistently-cheap downtown hotel that isn't a total dive, and they will have a whole new tower of brand-new, shiny rooms by the time you visit so the biggest problem - that it sells out consistently on pre-cruise nights - should be much less of an issue from now on. Despite the name and affiliation, the Y hotel is NOT a hostel - there are some larger rooms, but they're aimed at families (max 5 people) rather than cheap dorm room style, and while there are some even-cheaper rooms with shared bathrooms there are plenty of regular, 2 people rooms with their own private en suite bathroom. The hotel basically acts as a way to raise funds for the organization - until a few years ago they didn't even have to charge tax because of their charitable status, but even though they're now treated the same as any other hotel prices are outstanding value for the quality of the place. Otherwise, with cruise season firmly established well into October now (this year's port schedule is out, and there are loads of ships porting in October 2020) you will see a little bit of a price drop after Labour Day but probably still mostly-full across the board for downtown hotels - we've lost far more rooms than have been built in about the last 3-4 years so occupancy runs high. Blind Bidding on a hotel can be a great deal here - like I said first, there's no such thing as a bad downtown location, so provided you go for a minimum 3* standard you have zero risk of getting a bad hotel. If you go to 4* then you even cut out the handful of 'perfectly decent but in the party zone' hotels which never run more than 3.5* in ratings. As soon as you leave the downtown core there are very few other Vancouver hotels - a few on Boradway near City Hall/Vancouver General Hospital, a couple of motels way outside the swing of things, and one(!) right at the southern edge of the city near YVR. So if you can't bring yourself to 'stay at the Y' regardless of reviews, any other location may save some bucks BUT you will have to pay for that saving in lost time... Almost all of the popular sights are downtown, and the cheaper hotels across in North Vancouver need ferry or long bus rides, those out in Richmond which are really close to a SkyTrain station have higher prices than those which are further away from them - and are rarely cheaper than the Y regardless. At best you are looking at an average of 35min each way to the sights, assuming you are within <10mins walk of a station - and it could easily be closer to an hour in the evening when train frequency drops. So do factor in what your own time is worth when considering a 'bargain' that involves taking a ferry or bus ride!
  3. Doesn't matter - it's blind chance whether you get a good show or just 'backs & blows' at any given time of day. Technically whales don't even sleep - they just turn off half their brain at a time and chillax a bit while still moving around (pods of Orcas 'porpoising' through the water are often only half-awake) or lying a round for a short time ('logging' - humpbacks tend to take short rests at the surface throughout the day). If you want to maximise the chance of seeing something more exciting, an orca-focused watch down here (or precruise in May/early June when they're most common up at the AK end) means you're looking for inherently-more-active animals (Orcas are actually dolphins, not whales, so are fast and playful).
  4. Actually, I'd fly to Buffalo (cheaper) and do Niagara Falls first by rental car, dropping it off in Toronto (3 days in the city); then all-train travel to Ottawa (2 days), Montreal (3 days) before finally getting to Quebec City (2 days) for the cruise. Depending what kind of stuff you like to see in cities, you will want a different amount of time - Ottawa for example, being the capital, punches way above it's population size in galleries/museums as all the 'national...' whatever types are here, as well as parliament which has a very interesting tour. If you want to get out into the countryside, a car is a necessity - but I'd do a couple of one-day rentals each in Montreal & Quebec City then stick to on-foot touring or maybe HOHOs for urban centres and the train for intra-city travel, it's just nice. If the cruise starts with an overnight, as many do, remember you'll have that time when you're trying to decide how much to allocate to each city. Honestly, rather than rely on any opinions here - including my own - I'd hit up Tripadvisor to see which cities you feel have the most stuff YOU want to do in each before deciding how much time to allocate!
  5. Some small planes are also set up to land on glaciers - but fixed wing aircraft are a LOT worse for motion than choppers! Odds are the chopper ride will be smoother than the cruise - my wife has always been very prone to motion sickness, took years to convince her to fly in small planes or try whalewatching trips in small boats, but she flies constantly for work in a chopper and has never felt the need of even her Seabands let alone medication, whereas even on a big cruise ship she wears the bands 24/7. That even includes the odd time when the commuter chopper stops and circles whales in the water below at a very steep angle! Unless your friend has actually flown in a chopper before and found something about it freaked them out - they are loud and often cramped - reassure them that this excursion should be smooth as butter. Oh, and you seem to have posted the same question twice - you may have time to Edit the other one if you're quick!
  6. Agree with both above posts that yes, of course you can see whales - and sometimes you even get really lucky and a whale with surface really close to your cruise vessel. But the odds of you seeing anything well from umpteen feet above the ocean, let alone managing to get a photo of it from a moving ship, are slim - whereas small boat tours reliably get close to the whales, and always stop when they are near them giving you much better photo and viewing potential.
  7. Check exactly what you're getting through that travel agent Jeff - Rocky Mountaineer canceled all their 1 day trips years ago, now it's always at least a 2 day/1 night in a hotel somewhere journey (with per day pricing on the order of $AU800-1000 per day even for Silverleaf service). If budget is remotely a concern, VIA Rail sleeper trains are much cheaper than RM - and actually leave the Rockies so you can get back to civilization on the east side by rail rather than bus - and if you want all-daytime-travel for the views, several coach tour companies offer routes through the Rockies with many more stops than RM at a hefty discount (3 day coach trips can easily cost the same or less than the per-day rate on RM). RM is only for folks who reeeeaalllly want to go by train, in the daytime, don't mind overnighting in modest hotels that are a lot less fancy than the train (Quesnel and Kamloops just don't have any fancy hotels), and paying a frankly huge premium for the trip. And their buses are nothing special, so the Jasper or Banff to Calgary part is the same as everyone else running buses the whole way. The train is very nice - but unless you need fancy meals, you'll actually get far more chances to stop and take photos on a bus tour or driving yourself by car (and you can drive along a road through the same valleys as the railway for most of the trip).
  8. I'd also ask in respect of booking a tour - what about if your flight is late arriving, or the connecting flight gets moved up? Custom tours would be the only folks I can think of who would come get you at Seatac, and there's no way those will want to take the risk of you no-showing for an all-too-common airline issue so I'd expect it to be booked only a 'hefty deposit or even full payment upfront' basis that you'd then have to eat the loss on... Personally I'd instead drop $20 on an up-to-date guidebook, read it in advance to see what most interests you, and then wait to see how much time you actually have on the day. Using LINK to get downtown and back would be much more consistent in timing than a car, as traffic in Seattle is brutally variable (after LA, it's the worst commuter city in the US for wasted time due to traffic) - if you avoid rush hour a cab/uber etc. would likely be as quick or quicker but I would do the train in preference any time 7-10am or 3-7pm just so you know your travel time will be reliable. As Glaciers says, once you are downtown it's easy to walk around between many of the sites - and there are even free walking tours which you could take if the timing works, without financial commitment in case things go awry.
  9. Literally any hotel in the downtown core makes a good logistical base - unless you plan to tightly focus your two days on one part of the city (to be fair, Stanley Park is big enough you could just hang there the whole time!) then if you're really close to the park, you'll have more of a walk to get to Chinatown for example. A hotel slap bang in the middle means about a mile to each of the popular downtown core 'hoods (Yaletown, Chinatown, Gastown, West end, Granville Island). Unless you plan to leave the city, cars add way more hassle than they do convenience. We have zero highways anywhere in Vancouver, pedestrians come first in all urban planning with bikes & transit also prioritized over cars (there's actually a school of urban planning called Vancouverism, you can Google it if you're interested). Even if you plan to hit the popular North Shore attractions of Capilano & Grouse, they both have free shuttles from downtown. And if you do need to get somewhere outside the eminently-walkable core, our transit system is possibly the best on the continent - though if you're a group of 3-4 people, a point-to-point taxi may actually be even cheaper than transit tickets ($3pp within Vancouver, good for 90mins travel, while most downtown cab fares run under $10). Personally, to maximise efficiency of getting around downtown I always point folks to bikes - assuming the group can all ride (and even if they can't there are folks who rent adult tricycles and tandem bikes, so you can pair up older/smaller/weaker people with stronger pedalers or put someone on a nice stable 3 wheeler if balance is an issue, and eBikes with electric motors are popular rentals too). You can get anywhere on a bike that you can on foot, with less work and at about 3 times the speed (NB: speed limit of 15km/h, a touch under 10mph, applies all around the parks including the Seawall - and while it's not often monitored the cops do actually use speedguns to check occasionally. Since the Mounted patrol is based in Stanley Park, if you get real lucky you'll see a police horse chasing a speeding bicyclist!!!)
  10. I'd strongly suggest reaching out to local Victoria bike companies, so you can find out exactly what kind of seats are used - even if someone answers you who booked (at a vastly overinflated price!) through RCI in a prior year, no guarantees it's the same local provider they will use this time around. And you'll have more choice of possible tour routes, as well as saving cash, by booking direct too. Personally I'd look to eBikes or Tandems so that DH can avoid too much pedaling if it's going to be painful for him. Most useful link is to Yelps' Victoria bike rentals page here; one of them is literally right at the pier (Victoria Bike Rentals on Dallas Road) but the several companies based further downtown like Cycle BC, The Pedaler etc. would only be about a $10 cab ride away. Some offer guided tours, all should give you maps and/or suggested self-tour routes - and if pace/frequency of stopping is an issue, a self-guided tour seems a better idea than one where the group is all supposed to ride together and fellow pax might grumble if DH slows them enough they risk missing part of the tour to get back in time...
  11. Given the timing of the race, there absolutely 100% will be an impact on car traffic downtown - basically, both of the two main routes southbound from downtown (Granville/Oak and Cambie) have closures, and the finish area for ALL the races is virtually nextdoor to the pier so there will be a ton more folks than normal hanging around to cheer on runners, meet up with their freinds/family after the race etc. By the time many people are leaving the core, barriers will already have been removed from a fair chunk of the half-marathon course and the first part of the marathon course - so Cambie will start opening barriers by 9am and become a viable route again, BUT access to Cambie bridge in the core remains restricted longer so cars will still need to make a few detours into Gastown and around False Creek. Until then though, EVERY vehicle heading to the airport will be choking Main Street so if you are in any rush to get to the airport, I would heartily concur with Scott that SkyTrain will be a major win on this particular day. Anyone capable of self-disembarking is capable of using SkyTrain - and the Canada Line to the airport easily copes with a big suitcase and a carry-on or backpack per person right at your seat (there's space underneath on this line, unlike the older commuter lines that head eastward). This would also be a circumstance where I'd avoid the new fleet of Uber/Lyft like the proverbial plague even if you're normally a fan, as unless the drivers happen to have quit taxi driving to become a Lyber driver they'll be utterly clueless in terms of prior experience navigating these race closures! Unless you need porters to move your bags for you, this is definitely a day for SkyTrain!!! Oh, and folks who are sensibly staying on in town post-cruise - this is probably the worst morning to visit Stanley Park in the entire year, although LuluLemons giant summer Yogafest sucks harder in the afternoon and evening. Basically the entire Seawall around the park is blocked off until at least 1pm on marathon day. And the Street Festival for post-race celebration blocks off a big chunk of downtown core just west of the pier until well after 4pm (even though the barriers come down ~3:30pm, it takes a long time to clear up the site!) so unless you want tp pay to store bags at the pier, choosing a hotel that is east of Burrard St makes a lot of sense for any post-cruise night, so you can actually GET to it when you disembark easily! Edit - the one piece of good news is that you are the only ship in port, so at least the volume of cruisers will not be overwhelming.
  12. If the 'with kids' part is a priority, consider a post on the Family Cruising board too OP. Plus, TripAdvisor is generally a much better resource than here on CC for any city that has tourists arrive by means other than cruising - while cruisers do make a notable chunk of Victoria and even Vancouver tourists in season, they are far from the majority so a more general travel forum, with way more members, gives you access to a lot more opinions... including many suggested itineraries like '1/2/3 days in City X with kids' that may give you some solid ideas of logistics on combining multiple sites per day. Though it does seem you got lucky with Cruisinmomma being a Victorian and helping you out above! I'd agree with everything listed for Vic by them, though I can't comment on the hotel (we like the BW+ Carlton Plaza on Johnson Street, which has 2 bed suites available though you may have to call rather than book online). Given you have kids though, and frankly even if you didn't, I always advise NOT to visit Victoria from Vancouver unless you have Butchart on your bucket list and no foreseeable chance to return to this neck of the woods or at least a full week in the area. There is so much more to see and do here on the mainland, especially for kids! If you've already racked up multiple past visits to Vancouver then hitting Victoria this time makes sense - but given the hefty chunk of time that any cheap way of getting there takes up, at the very least you should factor in return flights home from YYJ to avoid having to make the same ferry ride twice. If you have plenty of cash to throw at the problem - enough for a ~$300pp round trip ride on a floatplane or chopper - the wasted time angle can be dealt with, but otherwise you're realistically looking at just shy of a 4 hour trip each way by ferry Van to Vic and vice versa. Distances up here are hefty - it's like going to Belgium when you end a vacation in London! We even have better gardens over here than any part of Butchart - not that any component garden of Butchart is not very good, but the draw is the fact you have multiple very good gardens all in one place. Can you really see your 4 and 8 year old enjoying themselves for half a day while the grownups look at plants...? Aside from the carousel, they'd have to entertain themselves - or more likely distract you from the gardens while you entertain them! Whereas if you hit a few parks & gardens around Vancouver separately, you have things like pitch & putt courses, tiny trains, tree-walks, water parks (one even has a walk-through child dryer, so no need to schlep wet clothes and towels around afterward...), bikes to ride, beavers to watch and you can do something more kid-focused immediately before or after a park or garden visit that doesn't entice them. Even the shopping here has much better kid-friendly options - an entire kids' market on Granville Island, and you can sign the kids into the rooftop adventure zone 'jungle gym' while you shop. There are also more afternoon tea choices in Vancouver - including a Fairmont one - that cost a fraction of the price of the Empress. They have jacked the price up in Victoria ridiculously, and it's never discounted - whereas as soon as cruise season ends you start seeing '2 for 1' offers or 'kids are free' in the Fairmont Vancouver. Sometimes they even use the rooftop for afternoon tea, so you get a pretty sweet view too.
  13. Aah - now I see why you were asking me follow-up questions about Amtrak bus on that other thread yesterday. Since this thread makes it clear you have a ship to meet the same day you disembark, some relevant info - firstly, unless QuickShuttle actually open their Summer Schedule in time they will not take you to eithe Seattle pier. That service is ONLY offered on the Summer sched, whereas to Seatac operates all year round. Only way to know exactly when they'll change is to contact them directly. Secondly, the 9am QS bus would still be preferable to the 9am Amtrak. Same price to downtown Seattle, but less crappy buses and less chance of a reaaaaaaalllly long number of stops. Amtrak buses potentially stop at every. single. train. station... all depends how many people book tickets and from where to where. They do try to ensure that if there's more people in total than a single bus can handle, that they split folks up - ideally an 'express bus' with minimal stops Vancouver-Seattle will happen, but no guarantees of anything with Amtrak. Hotel pickups include the Pan Pacific hotel with QS - which is on top of the pier! So if they're offering hotel pickup, you can still meet the bus right at the pier. IIRC the official downtown leaving point is the Holiday Inn, which is about 20mins on foot from the pier, and other hotels may involve the same bus doing a 'milk run' if only a few people want picked up or else other buses shuttling people to the HI. Plus, Amtrak buses do not preclear at the station - you can roll in 15 minutes ahead of time like any other bus, as you will stop at the border with all bus companies. Normal procedure is then to get off, pick up your bags, move them inside and through the X-ray (no trolleys, no porters, and CBP do NOT like anyone touching a bag that is not their own so usually bus drivers do nothing but move bus from trunk to curb and then again curbside into trunk when complete). If one single person on the bus has any degree of secondary questioning, all of you wait around until they are either allowed into the US or told they have to return to Canada (at that point the bus leaves without them - there's fine print in all contracts that they'll be stuck on the next northbound bus and brought back to origin point). So there's an element of completely uncontrollable risk with ANY of the buses at the border - whereas train and planes Preclear here, so any 'risky' individuals get weeded out without delaying departure. Personally, I'd either rent a car one-way (you can get these right at the pier, and driving to Smith Cove avoids much of downtown Seattle traffic so it's less likely to face delays than a Seatac trip) or else do what was suggested above, disembark in Victoria a day before your first cruise ends (100% legal, as you'll be on a 'US port to a Canadian port' trip, BUT you do need to clear this in advance with the cruiseline as they must arrange for not just a token 'behind the scenes' CBSA check on passengers, but a full 'you are entering Canada with all your stuff' check for full Customs as well as Immigration controls. CBSA will be on duty anyway - they run Immigration checks on all pax even stopping at Victoria - so this should not be refused, but I believe Celeb charge $65 fort the administration of such a request). The Clipper ferry goes downtown to downtown, and you Preclear with CBP on boarding this so in Seattle you just walk right off - I'd still do this the day before in case of weather problems though, and spend a night downtown in Seattle. Oh, and yes, HAL use Pier 91 all season long for embarkation - sometimes if it's a Port of Call the other lines use 66, which is where NCL have their terminus, but if it's folks getting on or off the ship for the first or last time, HAL and Princess use 91 consistently. Link to the port schedule here. It does confirm Oosty is using Pier 91.
  14. Link above won't help at all - that's for turning orientation of letters backwards rather than inverting colours! Simplest way to deal with this is to use the tech you already take on vaycay @haircut4u - take a photo of the daily patter, menu etc. with your tablet! If whatever method you're using to invert colours only works with limited file formats you may need the extra step of converting your photo to a compatible format, or running Optical Character Recognition software to turn the image into discrete letters, but you might find that tweaking your screen contrast/zooming in some helps enough for you to read the documents. There are plenty of free OCR options for your iPad, just Search for OCR or 'text scanner' on the Apple store.
  15. I agree that numbers will be down some, as the southern migration will be underway, but since your Sun cruise starts in Vancouver and has a full day in Victoria I suggest you do a local whalewatch here before embarking. Whale guarantee applies April-Oct in Vancouver, and if you get unlucky and don't see any you could take your free trip for your Victoria port day to get rapid use out of your guarantee (just book a company that operates in both cities, like Prince of Whales). No harm in also going on another whale watch in Juneau or ISP - it'll still be Humpbacks that they're targeting, whereas the bread & butter 'whale' locally is the Orca. Of course as humpies and Grays will be on their way south, late Sep/Oct can be the best time locally to spot those as well...
  16. June does have sunset after 9pm, and in theory you get potential for really nice photos in the hour or so beforehand - but you absolutely will be spending a significant chunk of that whalewatch in poor lighting. Plus, if it's a cruiseline excursion you're probably being hammered with: a) the loss of the normal guarantee from the whalewatch company - which is a lifetime of free rides until you do see a whale locally; b) a heavily jacked-up price (ordinarily 3hr tours out of Victoria run <CAD$130pp, and the folks that do run 'sunset' cruises often knock an extra discount off because of the less-good conditions for whale spotting) in USD, that's probably already higher than the CAD number without even factoring in exchange rate! If you don't have any other possible excursions of interest, check into booking an indy Sunset whalewatch (e.g. Prince of Whales) so at least you get the whale warranty, and literally any time you return to Vancouver or Victoria you'll ride again free even if it's many years from now as well as enjoying a sunset small boat cruise.
  17. Domestic Canadian flights - if you are physically capable of self-disembarking with your bags, it should be trivially easy to get to YVR in time for a 10am flight (even if you have to check bags, you can do that 45mins before the flight, and with only Security queue no issue making your gate). Off ship any time before 8:00am, walk to SkyTrain (or hop in cab if the queue is small) and you'll be at YVR with 30+mins padding - since Self-Disembark groups are the first ones off you can realistically expect to be off the ship by 7:30ish you have at least an hour of padding if you sign up for the first group, and since the trip is so short (and SkyTrain so reliable) that's almost overkill. Of course that's not what I actually recommend - it's frankly silly to come all the way across the continent without planning extra time in Vancouver! So unless you're planning plenty of Pre-cruise time here, add on a day or twelve then take a flight before 9am which guarantees avoiding all those annoying cruisers who start clogging up the airport by 9:30ish πŸ˜‰
  18. I did mention some of the reasons why they suck above... they have the oldest fleet of buses with zero in the way of 'mod cons' onboard (WiFi, Movies etc.) and yet charge the same or more than anyone else, including their own train (which is $10 less for the the cheapest tickets compared to the bus, for service that is so much more pleasant it's really difficult to make someone who has not traveled using both to appreciate just how much sheer cheek is involved in charging more for the bus than the train...) They do sometimes contract out to other companies, Cantrail being the most common (I have a friend here in Vancouver whose better half got a job offer in Seattle that was too good to turn down, so he's been taking buses & trains many times a year to keep the relationship going - he's very happy when Cantrail operates the Amtrak service, but there's no way to tell whose bus it will be until you show up at the station). Every time I've had to suffer an Amtrak bus - which in my case has been when there's been a problem with the train, so they send their buses to shuttle people around landslides for example - it's made me look back fondly to riding the school bus 40 years ago. One time my seat literally had a huge piece missing from it right in the middle of the seat cushion - well over a handspan across - and the overall condition has been pretty dreadful every time, with patches and tears all over the place. There's really just one downside to the Southbound train - timing. The morning train leaves too early, by the time the first people get off it's already on its way, so if you need to board the Oosterdam that day the train simply will not work. If it's at least one day later though the train is the nicest way to go. Evening train same-day as disembarking is very easy to take, but does have the minor annoyance of being at an awkward time for dinner (you need to arrive over an hour in advance to lock in a waterside seat; if you don't care about that there's still a 45min cutoff for checked baggage; and even if you are going all carry-on there's the US immigration preclearance which means you have to be at least 15-20 mins early at Vancouver even for Business Class pax). Food on the train is actually not bad - a big step up from airline food - and not too overpriced; the breakfasts options are better than the dinners IMO but Ivar's Clam Chowder is just the same as in the eponymous restaurant, very nice. You should get to your Seattle hotel before midnight with the evening train, but if you're early sleepers better to overnight in Vancouver and take the morning train next day - since the entire train sits in the station overnight, there's zero chance of delays leaving so you should be in Seattle by late morning. Even if you get seriously unlucky with delays, you have almost as much padding as the entire length of the trip - so even catastrophic problems like track blockages they'll out you on their buses (yes, terrible buses, but unlike every other possible method at least the Cascades train does actually have a built-in 'Plan B' for when stuff goes badly wrong!) so the only possible way you can miss a ship with the morning train either direction is if something actually happens en route. The other qualitatively good way to go is by rental car - there's so much traffic between Vancouver and Seattle in cruise season that cars from the different cities end up constantly shuttling back & forth, which means that drop fees only appear if you try to book way in advance or if you need a really niche vehicle (there simply aren't many minivans). If you're a couple or small group of say 5 or less though, rental cars can be a ridiculously cheap cost per person - and you have total freedom of route, including any of 4 border crossings, and of course the time you choose to travel. The train tracks run closer to the scenery than I5 so train is always more scenic than bus - but there's plenty of nice countryside if you get off the main highway.
  19. No problem - despite the extra airport fee, sometimes you still get the best deal through good timing or just plain good luck! That sounds like a great add-on, with enough time to really do justice to this part of the world - and the fact you already planned to come back on the other ferry route shows you've been doing your homework πŸ˜‰ "May your car never be stuck behind a tourist driving an RV!" (A modern Scottish travel blessing that applies well to BCs rural highways)
  20. Yeah, there are so many possibilities that a truly-comprehensive answer about anything related to immigration controls could be tens of thousands of characters - but the 'only US citizens' element is a fairly common factor which had gone completely unmentioned so far by anyone else (plenty of resident non-citizens in the US these days even if you only count 'legals') and injera is a very specific term that I've only ever heard bandied about by Ethiopian & Eritrean folks or those who really enjoy the food (especially those of us who complain they shouldn't call it that unless it's from authentic Teff rather than regular wheat flour) so, while maybe OPs name just stands for '1 guy who lives In Jersey called Andy' I thought the odds of an Ethiopian connection were higher, and even if still low posting could save some MAJOR problems if OPs Travel Agent had likewise just assumed everyone in New Jersey is American citizen πŸ˜‰
  21. I agree that all posters SHOULD provide full info whenever asking any questions, otherwise it's a G.I.G.O. situation - but given OP has literally just joined CC to ask these questions about traveling 'solo' with a kid, I figure it's more incumbent on us regular posters to give them the benefit of the doubt and cover all remotely-plausible bases... and someone choosing a username involving an Ethiopian flatbread just strikes me as having a reasonable potential of not being part of an umpteenth-generation US family. Better safe than sorry!
  22. Sorry to potentially muddy the waters further, but what are you actually doing on the Island? If you're getting out of Victoria to see other places, a car is pretty much a necessity - but if you're only doing 'Butchart & Victoria' you may be spending more than you need to on car rental fees and ferry car fees. The suggestion above to fly to Victoria from Coal Harbour wouldn't save money - but it is very efficient from a time perspective and also a gorgeous flight. There's also a coach that specifically connects to the ferries - they even have a pier pickup, though it's cheaper for two to simply take a cab to the bus station and board it there, with many more daily departures available then too. That's about $65pp, which gets you from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria - and renting a car for a day in Victoria and returning it there will be a lot less than 2 car tickets (~$60 ea) on the ferry. If you are spending several days on the Island, I think you'll find it more efficient to rent two separate cars - pick the first up at the pier or nearby, and drop it at YVR at the end of your rental (or back downtown if the price ends up more than $10 more expensive - then take SkyTrain to YVR for the next rental). All car rentals out of YVR charge a significant extra fee for the privilege of operating at the airport - last time I checked it was 20.5% extra - which means it is almost always cheaper to rent from any other location. Long distance one-way rentals can sometimes be difficult to arrange except from airport locations, so I can believe you're finding it difficult to get a rental from elsewhere in Vancouver that has to finish up in Calgary - but why pay 20% extra every day that you don't need to? If you're spending a week on the island, you could save quite a chunk of change with a separate rental for the first leg of your trip! Lastly, by renting downtown for your Island trip you open sensible alternate routing - head north first, up the Sea to Sky Highway. You'll get to drive through Stanley Park and over the Lions Gate bridge that you just cruised under. Ferries from Horseshoe Bay go to the Island too - and as well as getting to do some of what is undeniably one of the most gorgeous drives in the world here on the mainland (even if you only go as far as Squamish you'll see some outstanding views, and could stop at Shannon Falls which is spectacular), if you go on a different ferry route each way it means you'll see different views on the boats and also have less doubling-back on yourselves while driving on the Island. Win-win. If you do end up sticking to your plan as-is, don't trust Celebrity transfers to be helpful - you might be able to meet your 10am rental on a cruise transfer, but all the lines use local charter coaches, none of them leave until they are full, and unless you manage to get in one of the very first transfer slots you'll probably be late despite paying almost twice as much as a cab/10x the price of SkyTrain! If you are physically capable of carrying your bags off the ship, do it (staff actually enforce the rule about using the escalator with one hand free - if you're pulling two separate suitcases in each hand they'll block you and make you use the elevator, which is an awful lot slower but still quicker than the fastest 'collect my bags in the terminal' disembarkation slot though!) I'd also be willing to blow off the ferry reso - if all goes smoothly and you get your car on-time, you may easily be able to meet an earlier ferry. Sundays the busy direction is FROM the Island, not TO it, so there's quite likely to be a slot available for your car. Worst case there isn't, you have your reso for the next boat - but if you can get on an earlier one that's you immediately a couple of hours ahead of schedule. If the cab queue at the pier is short by the way, it could be quicker than SkyTrain - but SkyTrain is much cheaper and also much more consistent in travel time (no traffic). Ballpark 7 mins walk, average of 10 min delay for the next train on a Sunday morning, then 26mins travel time precisely. Once the schedule comes out confirming how many ships in port on your date you'll have a better idea of how busy the cab queue will get - but even on 4 ship days the folks who self-disembark have a decent chance of a few minute wait, rather than the 'over an hour' situations that happen later in the morning.
  23. They're not part of the Family, but they are the first folks to get kickbacks from them. We should probably stop talking about them now, or guys in tiny hats pushing luggage trolleys will start following us around... πŸ˜‰
  24. Agree - it's all about having proof that the non-traveling parent is aware of and approves of the travel. If the cruiseline has a specific form, complete it - if not, a letter clearly stating permission for travel to the visited places at the time the cruise is leaving, with contact info listed for the missus just in case anyone official wants to check she hasn't changed her mind. Since there is one traveling parent there shouldn't be any need to indicate authority given for medical treatment decisions, but no harm in listing that too.
  25. Ahem - birth cert is fine for these RT cruises, provided that the Minor is a US citizen. While OP lives in New Jersey, nothing about nationality has been mentioned...
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